Monument Rock Wilderness Hike

Monument Rock Wilderness Hike, Malheur National Forest

Hike Rating: Easy
Hike Length: 4.6 miles roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 250’
Trailhead Elevation: 7,490’
Best Season: July through September
Driving Access: High-clearance vehicle,
      once access road is snow-free

Plus Points

• Rare driving access to a high-elevation Wilderness Area (7,500’)
• Sweeping panoramic views
• Easy hiking on old roads over an open sage-covered plateau
• Colorful displays of lupine and paintbrush from early July
• Massive, lichen-covered rock outcrops and old glacial cirques
• Historical rock cairn that gives the Wilderness its name

Minus Points
• Afternoon thunderstorms can create lightning strike hazard
• Driving the last 3 miles of road to trailhead can be trying (details below)

Download (PDF, 688 KB): Photos of Monument Rock Hike
Download (PDF, 456 KB): Topo Map for Monument Rock Hike
Download (PDF, 785 KB): Road Map for Monument Rock Hike

Trail Notes
Map of Monument Rock Wilderness Hike
For the first mile, the trail follows an old road through open sage slopes until it reaches the mesa top. For great views, walk north cross-country for a few hundred yards to the ridge crest. Here, one can see the Elkhorn Range and the distant Wallowa Mountains to the northeast on a clear day. Look for elk in the old glacial cirques below the rim.

Continuing along the road for another 0.7 miles, just before reaching a cross fence, a faint track curves left (north) toward Bullrun Rock. For more great views, try this 0.5 mile side trip (one way) to the top of Bullrun Rock. It is worth the extra effort.

To reach Monument Rock instead, continue south on the main road, through the wire gate in the fence. After about 0.3 miles, the trail peters out at a saddle in the midst of a burned forest. Continue cross-country up the broad crest of the ridge, up a steep slope, then across the mountaintop to the monument itself. It’s believed this 8’ high, circular rock cairn was constructed by bored Basque sheepherders when grazing their flocks here in the early 1900’s.

Road to Trailhead
Only the final 3 miles of the access road present any problems. This section is less maintained and requires a high clearance vehicle in a few deeply rutted and rocky spots. Also, the forest burned here in 1989, so fire-killed, wind-thrown trees can block the road after any storm. Having a small chainsaw along will ensure access to the trailhead. After very wet winters, snow drifts can also block the upper road into early July.

Camping Options
The closest campground is the Elk Flat Spring Campground, just 3.5 miles below the trailhead off Road 1370. This is a pleasant, but primitive, campground featuring six free campsites scattered around a small grassy meadow, with a pit toilet, but no water supply. Tents or small camping trailers will fit in best here.

The next closest option is the Elk Creek Campground, about 15 miles from the trailhead, off paved Road 16. Here are five free campsites, with a vault toilet, but no drinking water. This campground will accommodate almost any size camping trailer.

Agency Contact: Malheur National Forest, Prairie City District, (541) 820-3800

DISCLAIMER: Every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this information, but the authors do not guarantee that it is either current or correct. The reader assumes full responsibility for any use of this information, and is encouraged to contact local federal land agencies to inquire about current conditions before traveling.

Page last updated: 12/19/11